Idiots

It’s a sodding bell, nothing more:

Parliamentary authorities have performed a dramatic u-turn over the decision to silence Big Ben for four years following an intervention from the prime minister.

After coming under intense pressure, officials announced that the plan for Big Ben to remain silent until 2021 is now under review.

Still, good to see we’ve no real problems left as people must have dealt with everything else if they’ve time for this.

Not looking good for the succession then

Grace Mugabe has spent millions on properties in South Africa in apparent preparation for a bolt hole amid rising tensions about who will succeed her husband, Robert Mugabe, as president of Zimbabwe.

Documents seen by The Telegraph show that Mrs Mugabe, who is currently facing allegations that she beat up a woman in Johannesburg, recently spent about £4 million on a mansion in one of south Africa’s richest suburbs.

Then again, there’s a value in this. Mengistu has done a lot less harm sitting on his Zimbabwean farm than he did running Ethiopia.

Ain’t the free market great?

We do not need a film about Brexit. Nobody needs a film about Brexit. If you want to see a film about Brexit, I can recommend a perfectly good workaround that involves finding a VHS copy of Threads and fast-forwarding it to two seconds after the bomb goes off. Any more than that and you are just wasting your time.

And yet, here we are. There is probably going to be a film about Brexit, or a big-budget TV show at the very least. Worse, it’s going to be about winning the Brexit vote. Worse, it’s going to be based on the self-congratulatory insider book The Bad Boys of Brexit: Tales of Mischief, Mayhem & Guerrilla Warfare in the EU Referendum Campaign. Worse, it’s thought that Nigel Farage is going to be an executive producer on the project. So, essentially, we are about to see an official Farage biopic about Farage’s “greatest victory” that’s been made by Farage himself. And you thought we had already suffered enough.

People get to spend their own money as they wish then fin out whether anyone likes the product.

Compare and contrast that with a system in which the state bureaucracy gets to decide who does what.

Homelessness is actually about the nutters

Mental health services – which have been faced significant cuts in recent years – are also essential to support many rough sleepers. In particular, there’s frequently a gap in provision for people with dual diagnosis of addiction and another mental health problem.

Quite Abi, quite.

We’ve got a large system which deals with people at risk of not having a roof over their heads. Rough sleepers are those that system doesn’t deal with. And as some actually note, the majority are suffering from one or other or both of those problems. It being rather more difficult to keep such in accommodation than to find it for them.

To a useful approximation rough sleeping isn’t in fact about housing at all…..

An alternative solution for Ellie

Let’s restrict the number of privately educated people in Britain’s elite
Ellie Mae O’Hagan

A quota system would redress the woeful under-representation of state-educated people in our establishment, and improve the quality of our government

Why don’t we just make state controlled education less shit?

So here’s a solution: instead of collectively rolling our eyes every time a new report on these statistics comes out, let’s introduce quotas. If 7% of the population goes to private school, then it seems only fair that 7% of Britain’s elite jobs should go to privately educated individuals. This would include chief executives, barristers, journalists, judges, medical professionals and MPs.

BTW, since when has journalism been an elite job? It’s a sodding craft you daft bint. It’s not even well paid.

All entirely true and won’t they get stick for it

Smoking is worth almost £15 billion to the public purse because of the tax revenue and the savings from smokers’ early deaths, according to a think tank’s analysis.

The free market Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) calculated the cost of smoking at £4.6 billion, including treating diseases, tidying up dropped cigarette butts and putting out house fires.

But tobacco duties brought in £9.5 billion a year and the Government saves £9.8 billion in pension, healthcare and other benefit payments because of the premature deaths of smokers.

NHS wheelchair provision

Frances Ryan tells us all that wheelchairs aren’t available on the NHS to those who need them. Then fails to ask the correct question. So I do in the comments:

What would be interesting to know is, has there ever been a time when the NHS provided, free at the point of use and on time, the correct wheelchair for all who needed one?

That is, is this a new problem? Or an old one that has just come to your/our attention? Knowing that will aid in understanding why. For example, perhaps it is about tight money these days. But if it has always been true, then perhaps it’s about the structure of the system itself?

That something is wrong seems obvious. But we can’t fix it until we know what is wrong, can we?

This is from a supporter of state housing

Just after midnight that morning, the ceiling had collapsed in one woman’s bedroom: mercifully, she was visiting friends that night. The fact she has a condition that puts her at high risk of a heart attack doesn’t bear thinking about. For two weeks prior in the refuge, the sprinkler system had been leaking heavily: the women showed me the flooding they endured – ankle deep in some bedrooms, and wallpaper bulging with stale water.

Finally, the leak caused the ceiling to fall in. They rang the fire brigade and the housing association that owns the house and the charity that runs the shelter service. When the emergency services arrived, a firefighter told them that if anyone turned on the power, the entire building would go up in flames. Removing a plug from the wall, he swore as water poured from the socket. They were left with torches and barely managed to sleep: seven women, and six children between the ages of two and seven, crowded into the communal living room.

Their children are in play schemes in west London, where they’re building confidence after fleeing abuse and violence
Then matters worsened. The women were phoned individually by the housing association and told they’d be put in temporary accommodation – with no guarantee of when they would return – in Barking, 15 miles away:

God knows how an opponent of state housing would phrase it all.

Those experts would be lawyers, right?

Victims of NHS blunders face spending all their compensation on lawyers fees, following a proposed Government shake-down of legal costs, experts have warned.

The fears of patient safety groups were realised on Monday as a report by the Right Honourable Justice Jackson recommended capping the costs recoverable by people successfully suing negligent NHS trusts.

The long-awaited document recommends imposing the cap on medical negligence cases where the value of the claim is worth less than £25,000.

Yes, save the trains!

Narp launched a “Rally for Trains” campaign that saw events last month across the country, from Portland, Oregon, to Miami, Florida, via Wausau, Wisconsin.

One rally was in Alpine, a west Texas town of about 6,000 people in Brewster County – an area bigger than Connecticut that gave 53% of its votes to Trump in the 2016 presidential election. A Trump-Pence Make America Great Again poster is fixed to a balcony above a store opposite the station along one of Alpine’s main drags, which could pass for a western film set but for a Thai food truck.

Inside the smart waiting room – which has a mural of a ticket office window in lieu of an actual ticket office – Gwynne Jamieson wielded a placard that read: “Trump promised more infrastructure, we get less? Save Alpine’s Amtrak!”

Yes.

The next nearest Amtrak station, Sanderson, is 85 miles away. The loss of a service used by about 5,000 people a year,

Ah, well, umm, no actually. What are we talking about, 10 people a day or summat?

Close the damn thing.

Umm, are we sure this will work?

A radical plan by the US drugs regulator to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels saw shares in FTSE 100 tobacco giants British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands go up in smoke.

Fags are a method of delivering nicotine. Reduce the nicotine level and people will smoke more or fewer fags?

The things that kill being the tar etc, not the nicotine. So, this increases or reduces the harm from smoking?

I wonder which NGO is behind this?

It’s going from bad to worse for Acacia Mining.

The London-listed gold company has just been told it owes $190bn in unpaid taxes and penalties by the government of Tanzania.

The country’s President John Magufuli has accused the company of deliberately understating its exports to avoid paying royalties and other taxes.

Acacia has strongly denied the charges, saying that it has fully declared all revenues from its mines in the country.

Long story short. Acacia runs gold mines in Tanzania. Govt alleges – and a government committee has confirmed via analysis – that Acacia is grossly underestimating gold content of semi-processed ore it exports. Thus a tax bill for 2 centuries worth of gross revenue that Acacia reports.

This is a shakedown by Tanzanian govt. There is simply no way at all that there is the gold content being claimed. Quite apart from anything else, where the hell is the money going? For it’s most certainly not turning up in the company accounts. They’re also flat out wrong on their valuation method. Ore doesn’t pay out for what is in the ore, only for what is commercially extractable. So things like the level of Ytterbium are an irrelevance.

The thing is, such allegations won’t come from nowhere. My guess is that there’s an agitator, some NGO, behind this. Who, I have no idea.

Worth noting though that the basic claim about gross misinvoicing started with Alex Cobham, he’s now at TJN. He claimed some massive fraud by Glencore over copper exports from Zambia. He was wrong, grossly so. He was comparing the copper price of thousands of tonnes leaving Zambia with the price of the odd 10 kg sample leaving Switzerland. Entirely unaware that recorded customs prices include the cost of transport. And, yes, the cost of transport per kg for a shipload of copper is different from the cost per kg of transport of a sample by DHL.

This was followed by a UN look at South Africa’s mineral exports, entirely fucked up again by the committee. And now this in Tanzania.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to know which NGO or adviser is behind this clusterfuck?

Frances Ryan and numbers again

In an era of nationwide school funding cuts, the story of Frederick Bremer is perhaps the ultimate snapshot of the cuts agenda’s unthinking destruction. Watch a few minutes of this comprehensive onscreen, and it’s clear that it is the type of school any politician would praise: 900 enthusiastic kids, staff going the extra mile, even a dedicated special needs hub. But regardless, it is pushed to the brink. A cocktail of cuts, pension changes and inflation rises means by 2020 the school is facing a budget reduction of around £800,000 in real terms. That’s the equivalent of more than 20 teachers.

This would be damaging enough if the school was flush with spare change. But in the words of its headteacher, Jenny Smith, it is already running on “bare bones”. The 44-year-old has run the school for five years, but for the last two she has watched her budget get squeezed.

OK. Now for the other bit:

Primary and secondary school spending per pupil have almost doubled in real terms between 1997–98 and 2015–16.

Winding back a bit of G. Brown’s lashing the cash is austerity, you see?

School holiday food poverty

The thing is, I just don’t believe them.

Austerity is often compared to a household budget by the economically illiterate: akin to belt-tightening in the short term, or even dieting for a planned holiday. But both analogies suggest an end in sight: growing up in poverty has no end goal, it’s simply ceaseless misery for children and adults alike. Going hungry affects children’s education, life chances, and even physical development: that alone should be an impetus to stamp it outin a purportedly developed country.

But hunger is greater than that, and will have a huge long-term effect on a generation. Poverty is psychological violence, and it is being inflicted on children on a mass scale, and will be forged in the memory of millions of citizens. Growing up poor robs people of their childhoods, damages confidence and self-worth, and has an irreparable effect on families. Teachers have told me of six-year-old children fainting in classrooms from hunger, and being forced to provide breakfast and even supper clubs because parents are hit by sanctions, the bedroom tax, and exorbitant rents.

I’ve no doubt there are instances of all of the above. There are parents who murder their own children too. But that’s also extremely uncommon, as these stories of actual starvation are, I’m sure. But more hunger than there was 20 years ago? 50? Simply do not believe them.

Quite apart fro anything else those food banks alleviate hunger, they’re not evidence of it going unalleviated, are they?

Heh

UK median household income is around £25k a year.

Mean UK household tax bill is around £25k a year.

If you were to gloss over the difference in the two averages……

Nah, fuck it, hang the tax eaters.

Isn’t this interesting?

Sir David Attenborough’s salary remains unknown as his natural history programmes are funded by BBC Worldwide. Such programmes have such high production budgets that they have to be funded by commercial income.

So, no one can use those programmes as support for the licence fee as they come not as a result of the licence fee.

Definitely one to write down and remember. no?

Well, yes, it is Manchester

I really wanted to believe that Mancunians could be trusted with nice things. Just over a fortnight ago, a Chinese company called Mobike brought 1,000 shiny new silver and orange bikes to my city. Unlockable with a smartphone and available to rent for just 50p for half an hour, they could be ridden wherever you liked within Manchester and Salford and, crucially, could be left anywhere public once you were done.

I was an immediate convert, boasting about the superiority of our new bike-sharing system over London’s, pitying sadsacks in the capital who had to trundle around looking for a docking station. One sunny evening shortly after the launch, I rode a Mobike to Salford Quays, where I swam a mile in the filtered water of the glistening Lowry, reflecting as I did my backstroke that Manchester was starting to feel rather European. I had always fancied living in Copenhagen, where the cyclist is king and the harbour has been turned into a lido. Was I now living that continental dream?

Two weeks on and I fear that a dream is all it was. There are Mobikes in the canal, Mobikes in bins and I am fed up with following the app to a residential street where there is clearly a Mobike stashed in someone’s garden. On launch day, the Chinese designer told me the bikes were basically indestructible and should last four years without maintenance. It took a matter of hours before local scallies worked out how to disable the GPS trackers and smash off the back wheel locks.

On Thursday, none of the eight bikes showing on the app as being near my house were actually there. I was so incensed when I reached the location of the ninth and could see it locked away in a backyard that I lost control of my senses and knocked on the door. A young man opened it and I asked nicely if I could rent the bike. He looked surprised and said, no, it was his, and anyway, he needed it later. I explained that was not how the system worked, that the bikes were public, and that if everyone was as selfish as him the whole thing would collapse. He rolled his eyes and told me I would be trespassing if I dared try to fetch it.

Imagine the result if they’d tried it in Liverpool?

Here’s it’s the Chinese imagining that some section of the British are not as they are. But it is, writ small, the basic problem with much of what government has, over the years, planned for much of Britain. A constant and consistent insistence that Britons are not as they are.

The thing is he’s right

Hammond said that while public-sector pay had formerly “raced ahead” of private salaries, the gap had now closed. But, he added, public-sector pensions skewed the picture. “When you take into account the very generous contributions that public-sector employers have to pay in for their workers’ very generous pensions, they are still about 10% ahead,” he said.

Not entirely right because even absent pensions public sector pay is still a little ahead. A reasonable pencil sketch being that up to about 2002 pay was roughly equal (without considering those pensions and other perks), public sector roared ahead as G. Brown bribed everyone he paid directly, recession hit, public sector fell less than private in 2008-10, more since then.

The end result being that public sector pay rose more before the recession and fell less after it.

As to why pay fell, well, we’re poorer, that’s what a recession means.